Filament jams are probably the most obnoxious errors to run into. They happen too often with Makerbots and it means that the estimated print times are never even close to accurate.

It is incredibly frustrating because a filament jam is the most vague error a printer can have. So much extra time is spent trying to discover the cause of the jams before you ever get to actually fixing them. To give you an idea, here are just some of the things that could be happening when there is a filament jam:

  • the build plate is not level (which could be for a number of reasons)
  • the Smart Extruder is inoperable (which could also be for a large number of reasons)
  • the object being printed has too much overhang
  • there are impurities in the filament
  • the room temperature or humidity level is problematic
  • the filament is loaded incorrectly or tangled in the machine

…and so on and so on. The possibilities are practically endless and the solutions are equally numerous.

What’s worse is that often the Makerbot Replicators will fuss about having a filament jam, but if you tell them to keep printing or if you load the filament without unloading, they are usually fine and dandy. I have decided to call this a phantom jam and I also believe that maybe the large printers are hypochondriacs. The Makerbot Replicator Minis are the exact opposite. They are similar to a person who realizes they are walking in the wrong direction but are too terribly embarrassed to turn around so they just continue on hoping they’ll get somewhere. I say this because too many times I have seen a Mini continue printing when the extruder is clogged, nothing is coming out of the nozzle, or anything else that is typically considered a filament jam. When they do, they just print spider webs in thin air and make a dreadful mess everywhere. It gives me even more reason to despise filament jams.

Just the other day, I was printing some fraction circle manipulatives on RoboBot, Pinny, and ProdigalBot. Of course, ProdigalBot had no problems whatsoever, and RoboBot just had a single phantom jam. Pinny, however, was a total diva. She wanted constant attention and in the span of an hour and a half (well, what was SUPPOSED to be an hour and a half), she jammed eleven–yes, eleven!–times. I wanted so badly to blame the filament instead of Pinny because she’s normally so sweet and cooperative, but most of the time the filament was perfectly fine. Even now I’m not entirely sure what her problem was and if that doesn’t show how upsettingly vague filament jams are, I don’t want to know what will.


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